Hickory Trees: Types, Bark, Leaves, Nuts – Identification Guide (Pictures)

Hickory trees have thick foliage and a spreading canopy and are big deciduous trees. Hickory trees have serrated edges on their leaves and egg-shaped nuts with ridged, gray flakey bark. Hickory trees can reach a height of 60 to 80 feet (18 to 24 meters), with a 40-foot (12-meter) spread.

The Hickory tree (Carya) belongs to the plant genus Carya and belongs to the walnut family (Juglandaceae). The hard, dense wood, rich delicious nuts, and sweet syrupy sap of hickory trees are all treasured. In North America and some parts of Asia, hickory trees are ubiquitous in temperate rainforests.

Hickory bark, leaves, nuts, and twigs are all described in this guide to hickory trees. In the Carya genus, photographs of hickories may be used to identify the most prevalent hickory trees.

Hickory Tree Facts

Hickory trees come in 18 different species, with 12 of them being native to North America. Shagbark hickory (Carya ovata) and shellbark hickory (also known as kingnut or Carya laciniosa) are the two most common types of hickory trees. Pignut hickory (Carya laciniosa) and bitternut hickory trees (Carya cordiformis) are two other types of hickory.

In damp ground near streams, rivers, and floodplains, hickories are powerful and sturdy shade trees. Hickory wood is dense and hard because of its slow growth.

Hickory species are often referred to by their common names, which allude to the tree’s bark or nuts. Hickory trees, such as shagbark (Carya ovata) and shellbark (also known as kingnut or Carya laciniosa), are the most common hickory trees for nut production. Pignut (Carya laciniosa) and bitternut hickory trees (Carya cordiformis) have decorative value and bitter nuts, on the other hand. Black hickory (Carya texana), red hickory (Carya ovalis), and sand hickory (Carya pallida) are three uncommon hickory species.

Hickory Tree Bark

The texture of hickory tree bark is rough and furrows and ridges run vertically up the tree. The top and bottom of the long plates on several hickory species develop a shaggy look, which causes them to curl outwards. As the tree aged, hickory bark becomes darker and darker.

Hickory tree bark may have shallow or profound wrinkles, depending on the species. The intervals between ridges might also be narrow or wide. Mature hickories have dark gray bark that is typically easy to peel off.

Hickory Tree Leaves

Long and narrow hickory tree leaves are made up of alternating leaflets that grow on the stem in an opposite direction. Hickory leaflets are lanceolate or ovate in form with a pointed tip and serrated edges. Pairs of leaflets with a terminal leaf blade make up hickory leaves.

Each pinnate compound leaf has an odd number of leaflets, and Hickory leaves are between 6″ and 24″ (15 – 60 cm) long.

Hickory Tree Nuts

Green balls become hard light brown when Hickory tree nuts are roasted. Nutshells, which are egg-shaped and roughly the size of a golf ball, come from the hickory tree. A wonderfully delicious kernel or hickory nut is protected by hard shells. White or tan hickory nuts are available.

Hickory nuts are a drupe, or a kind of fleshy fruit with a kernel or single seed encased by a husk.

Shagbark hickories, shellbark hickories, and pecan trees are the best hickory trees for producing nuts. Pecans belong to the genus Carya, however they are not called hickory trees.

Hickory Tree Identification

Hickory trees’ bark, leaves, and nuts are the best way to identify them. Longer Hickory leaves have up to 17 oppositely positioned leaflets on the leaf stalk. When the tree becomes mature, its hickory tree bark peels easily to reveal gray ridges. Hickory nuts are delicious and come from common hickory trees.

Scaly plates and curled ends characterize the hickory tree bark. Shagbark and shellbark hickory bark are easily distinguished. Shellbark hickory bark has a lustrous appearance that is lacking in shagbark.

Pinnate compound leaves with pairs of leaflets and a single terminal leaf growing on the stem make up the hickory tree leaves. Shagbark hickory leaves grow up to 10 inches (25 cm) long, whereas shellbark leaves grow up to 24 inches (60 cm). In addition, shellbark leaves have two leaflets more than shagbark.

Hickory tree nuts are typically delicious and sweet. The most flavorful nuts or drupes come from the shagbark hickory and pecan tree (Carya illinoinensis). Beautiful nuts, the largest of all hickory species, may be found in the shellbark hickory.

Types of Hickory Tree (With Pictures)

The shagbark hickory, shellbark hickory, and pignut hickory are the most popular types of hickory trees. Another hickory species that thrives in the United States is the pecan. Hickory trees of different kinds are native to Asia and produce nuts.

The most common hickory trees have distinctive characteristics that may be identified.

Shellbark Hickory Tree (Carya laciniosa)

The slow-growing, big deciduous trees with thin trunks that reach 120 ft (37 m) tall are known as shellbark hickories. The smooth gray bark of the shellbark hickory has large plates and tiny grooves. The thick twigs, delicious nuts, and seven or nineleafleted leaves of this hickory variety are robust.

In damp bottomlands and wet woods, the shellbark thrives. Shellbark hickory trees are becoming more difficult to find in their native habitat, unfortunately. The trees develop slowly and are unsuitable for many city environments, despite the fact that they live for several years.

Shellbark hickory has high-quality, strong wood, as do other hickory species. Tool handles, drumsticks, furniture, and sporting bats are all made of shellbark wood.

Like all hickory species, shellbark hickory trees produce flowers. Hickory catkins are yellow-green in color and produced by male hickory trees. Little clusters of up to ten flowers appear on female hickories. The flowers on all hickory species, on the other hand, are insignificant.

Due to the huge, sweet nuts that the tree produces, shellbark hickory is also known as kingnut hickory. The gigantic king nuts measure 2.6″ (4.5 cm) long and 1.5″ (4 cm) broad.

Shellbark hickory bark develops shallow, thin fissures as it ages. It is gray and smooth when young. Shellbark trunks have a silkier feel when they’re mature, unlike shagbark hickory. The plates have only slight curling, and their bark is easily peeled.

Shellbark hickory leaves have pinnately complex leaves with seven to nine leaflets and are Hickory tree leaves. The leaves are lanceolate in form and serrated along the margins, as with other hickories. Shellbark hickory foliage turns golden brown in the autumn.

Shagbark Hickory (Carya ovata)

The massive thin shagbark hickory tree has a disheveled appearance due to the gray peeling bark. Shagbarks grow to be 120 feet (36 meters) tall, with an average height of 60 to 80 feet (24 meters). The five or seven rounded leaves on shagbark leaves are deciduous.

The two varieties of shagbark hickory are:

  • Southern shagbark hickory (Carya ovata var. australis) – also called Carolina hickory. Some consider southern shagbark hickory as a separate species (Carya carolinae-septentrionalis).
  • Northern shagbark hickory (Carya ovata var. ovata)

The spreading canopy of shagbark trees is big. As a shade tree in parks and streets, the lush, green foliage is ideal.

The bark of shagbark hickories distinguishes them from other kinds of hickory trees. The bark of young hickories is smooth. The bark of the shagbark species grows into long, thin plates that roll away from the trunk. The unkempt, shaggy look of mature shagbark trees is characteristic.

The shaggy look of shagbark hickories distinguishes them from shellbark hickory trees, despite their resemblance.

Shagbark hickory trees produce delicious edible nuts, which is one of the reasons they’re so popular. An oval, hard, brown husk protects the delicious kernels. Shagbark hickory nuts have a sweet buttery flavor and are similar to walnuts and pecans. Roasting, drying, or toasting nuts boosts their flavor.

Shagbark hickory bark is thick and scaly, and it exfoliates or peels naturally in thin strips. These hickories are especially attractive due to their shaggy curling bark.

Shagbark hickory tree leaves have five or seven leaflets on a stem and are 8″ to 14″ long. The jagged edges of the slightly rounded and pointed leaves give them a rough look. In the autumn, Shagbark hickory leaves turn golden yellow.

Southern Shagbark Hickory (Carya carolinae septentrionalis)

The shaggy gray bark of the southern shagbark hickory peels off the tree. In terms of appearance, the southern shagbark is similar to the shagbark hickory (Carya ovata). The southern shagbark has smaller nuts, which distinguishes it from the other species.

The southern shagbark, sometimes known as the Carolina hickory, grows to be 65 to 100 feet (20 to 30 meters) tall. With a tall, slender straight stem and branches high up in the tree, the shaggy-looking tree has a rugged appearance.

Southern shagbark hickories have gray bark that peels in plates, and their Hickory tree bark is similar.

Southern shagbark hickory trees have leaves that can be up to 12 inches (30 cm) long. Five obovate-shaped leaflets with finely serrated edges make up each pinnate leaf.

Pignut or Black Hickory (Carya glabra)

Pignut hickory tree grows to between 50 and 80 feet (15 and 24 meters) tall, and is sometimes called the black hickory or smoothbark hickory. The straight trunk and enormous rounded crown of the Pignut hickory tree. The gray scaly bark of the pignut hickory tree does not peel from the trunk.

On ridges and slopes, the pignut hickory thrives on rich, dry to moist soils. Pignuts are attractive decorative trees in woodlands and open settings because of their quick growth.

Pignut hickories produce pear-shaped nuts, which are known as hickory nuts. The nuts, on the other hand, have a unpleasant flavor and are thus unpopular with us. The hogs and other animals like eating this hickory tree, which is why they are called common.

Pignut hickory trees have smooth gray bark when they’re young, and it’s called hickory tree bark. The bark of pignuts becomes scaly and grooved as they age. With these hickories, there is no bark peeling.

Pignut hickories have finely serrated margins on their lanceolate leaves. Each leaf has five or seven blades, which turn a beautiful yellow in the fall.

Pecan (Carya illinoinensis)

Pecans are a hickory tree with grayish-brown bark and deep narrow fissures that is found throughout the United States. Pecan trees may grow to be as large as 130 feet (40 meters) tall and are known for their size. Underneath their vast canopy of 75 feet (23 meters), they get plenty of cover. The delicious nuts of pecans are well-known.

Pecan nuts, also known as drupes, are small brown nuts with a thin husk that splits into four pieces. The nuts have a waxy feel and an oblong shape with a buttery flavor.

Pecan tree bark is reddish-brown or gray with flat scales and deep fissures.

Pecan tree leaves are significantly more pointed than those of all other hickories. Pecan leaves have a fern-like appearance because of the presence of up to 15 leaflets per leaf.

Mockernut Hickory (Carya tomentosa)

The bark of mockernut hickory trees is thin and furrows are deep and narrow. Mockernuts have a rounded crown and produce nuts that are difficult to crack. They grow to between 60 and 80 feet (18–24 meters) tall. Pinnate yellowish-green leaves make up mockernut trees. White hickory is another name for mockernut.

Mockernut hickory trees have gray bark with short horizontal splits that are close together. The bark on certain mature mockernut trees peels.

Mockernut hickory leaves have five ovate-lanceolate leaflets with faint serration along the margins, as do hickory tree leaves.

Bitternut Hickory (Carya cordiformis)

Large pinnate leaves, slender green twigs, and grayish bark with diamond pattern fissuring characterize the bitternut hickory tree. With an uneven oval crown, bitternut hickories may grow up to 115 feet (35 meters) tall.

Hickory nut: Bitternut hickories produce inedible, bitter-tasting nuts.

Bitternut hickory bark develops as the tree grows from smooth and gray to grayish-brown with wrinkles. Bitternut bark does not peel like other hickories do.

Bitternut leaves have five to nine broad leaflets on each leaf stalk and are light green in color. In the autumn, the hickory tree leaves take on a golden yellow color.

Red Hickory (Carya ovalis)

A single, straight trunk with gray bark and flaking plates characterize red hickory trees. In arid, sandy soil, red hickories thrive on slopes and hillsides. Shade trees of medium size to enormous size may grow up to 100 feet (30 meters) tall.

Hickory nut: Little oval nuts with a bitter to sweet flavor are produced by red hickories.

Gray hickory trees have flat ridges with a thin fissure that separates them, and red hickory trees have dark bark. The bark of red hickories that develop swiftly peels and withers out on the tree.

Seven smooth glossy leaflets with finely serrated edges are common on red hickory leaves.

Sand Hickory (Carya pallida)

The bark of sand hickory trees is smooth and has a network-like pattern of shallow furrows. Sand hickories, which grow to be 80 feet (24 meters) tall, are a sluggish growing deciduous tree. Sand hickory trees have shiny pinnate leaves with pointed leaflets and small edible drupes, which are their distinguishing features.

Scrub Hickory (Carya floridana)

Scrub hickories are short tree shrubs that may only grow to be 16 feet (5 meters) tall. The tallest scrub hickory trees may reach up to 80 feet (25 meters) in height. The leaves of these little hickory trees are 12 inches (30 cm) long and have seven large pointed leaflets. Little edibledrupes are produced by scrub hickories.

Nutmeg Hickory (Carya myristiciformis)

Brownish-gray bark with a tendency to peel in plates covers the nutmeg hickory tree. One of the rarest native hickory trees is nutmeg hickories. The leaves of these hickories are lustrous green and have a silvery underside. The redish-brown nutshells feature patterns that look like nutmeg kernels, and the sweet kernels are round.

Nutmeg hickories only exist in small numbers in some of the southern states and reach heights of up to 100 feet (30 meters).

Black Hickory (Carya texana)

In comparison to shagbark hickories, black hickory trees have smooth bark with diamond-shaped ridges. Three pairs of lanceolate leaflets and a solitary terminal leaf make up the black hickory pinnate leaves. The undersides of the leaves are dull, and the margins have a tiny serration.

Black hickories are small, slow-growing trees that reach about 50 ft. (15 m) in height.

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